VARIOUS ARTISTS - FOR LEE JACKSON IN SPACE (fundraising download from forleejacksoninspace)
When, on 26th March 2012, Lee Jackson passed away after a battle with ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease), a ripple of sadness and shock ran through the communities he touched with his life. Tributes poured in across social networks sites and plans were soon hatched for a tribute to a man whose passion for music knew no bounds. Curated by Mats Gustaffson, with whom Lee worked on The Broken Face magazine, Ned Raggett and Travis Johnson, this compilation not only showcases a massive range of music but will also ensure that the fight against ALS continues, as all proceeds go to the Texas branch of the charity fighting the disease. http://webtx.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=TX_homepage
Above all, though the music on show is for Lee Jackson - a man who touched many through his writing, his knowledge and his kindness; not least of course Terrascope readers. All we can do is dive in and enjoy the sounds whilst raising a glass to the stars. Turn it up and don't forget to boogie.
So onto the music itself, how exactly do you review 94 tracks that stretch over 12 hours, looks like the perfect festival line-up and covers folk, space-rock, drone, psych, experimental, pop, acoustic, freakout, cosmic funk and all points in between?
To be honest I am not sure yet, guess I am gonna have to fire the compilation up and see what happens.
Opening with the wonderful Abunai!, “Time of the Funk Lords” kicks right in with a funky riff, synths and stratospheric guitar, the whole band heading for out of the galaxy with energy to spare and grins on their faces, passing the baton on to Primordial Undermind, whose live version of “I Am Afraid Of You” keeps us in deep space, an atmospheric intro soon giving way to more chaotic passages sounding like a dust storm swirling across the universe.
Next up, Tadpoles offer some fine psych-pop in the shape of “Jaded Jean (LJ mix)”, a fine song that gets your feet tapping before Stone Breath do the wyrd-folk thing so well on “Dark Veils Part”, a good place to start if you are not familiar with the band and their unique visions. With a completely different sound The Photon Band go for the free form approach on the echoed drones of “Unfinished Sky: Electricity, Heat and Rain”, just let the sounds wash over you and then get your feet moving with the electronic Kraut-Funk of “Untitled” brought to you by the excellent Melodien, a bright an invigoration sonic shower indeed.
Getting heavier but equally as spacey, the mighty SubArachnoid Space, destroy all notions of time on the perfectly titled “Sound and Memories Remain”, thirteen minutes of perfection that are quickly followed by “When She's Sleeping”, a wondrous slice of psych-pop from Oyvind Holm that is full of emotion and quite beautiful. With a heavier take on the psych theme, Nick Bensen combines with Too Many Guitars for the energy driven “Stone Circle” complete with some excellent guitar that runs all over it with anguished precision. Keeping with the melodic psych sound for a while longer “Elven Queen” is another ripple of beauty and sweetness from The Linus Pauling Quartet, some lush chiming guitar only adding to the charm, before Anvil Salute get into an improvised groove on the ramshackle but engaging “Technosis Externality Clusterfuck”, a title they must have been saving for something special, surely.
Equally long and rambling, but in a much more laid back and gentle style is “Galleria Malaise” a wonderful ambient work from Locrian that features birdsong within its soft grooves, well I hope it does, if not the birds in my garden are enjoying this track. After these two long pieces the excellent acoustic tune “Take Your Hand of the Tree” offers a drop of lightness thanks to the pen of Theo Angell, this lightness is extended by Arborea, whose wistful and ethereal “Stardust” is a thing of great beauty. With a delicate touch and a sugar coated voice, Marianne Nowottny soothes the nerves on “Where You Are” completing a fine trio of tunes that work so well together.
A past master of memories and nostalgia, Alan Davidson sings with emotion and passion on “Me Jack and Lee and the Ghost of Skip James”. Of course you know him as The Kitchen Cynics but on this track it is simply Alan paying tribute to an old friend. Equally personal is the achingly wonderful and cleverly titled “Which Way to Townes” brought to you by Six Organs of Admittance, an acoustic guitar tour-de-force that is understated and far too short.
With a lovely sunny groove, the slightly Eastern sounding “Some Mornings” is pure joy in the hands of Tandem Bridges. This Eastern psych feel is also captured on “These Alien Angel (Extended In Space)”, a swirling groove created by Three Minute Tease.
Doing what they do so well, Volcano the Bear, manage to make four minutes stretch to the infinite as they distort time in an experimental and delicious manner on the excellent “Tremondo”, all creaks, rattles and crackles, with an ageing piano holding it all together. Floating in like a soft white cloud “The Breaking” is an exquisite song, the softly beautiful voice of Marissa Nadler soothing the very air around the listener, a sweet guitar the perfect accompaniment.
Waving their freak flag high, Ade Shaw and Rustic Rod Goodway takes us back to the early seventies for some cosmic fun on “Chakra Blue”, a very enjoyable trip indeed.
Over 13 glorious minutes The Magic Carpathians Project seemingly invoke a feeling of universal sadness on the brilliant “In The Air We'll Be Reborn”, a devastating piece of music, that is perfect for this collection, the sense of loss tempered by the hope of something beyond our everyday existence, a light that never goes out. This sense of sadness can also be found on “Night Clouds”, an instrumental track, using the voice as an instrument in this case, from Sharron Kraus, the blend of voice and guitar evoking images of ancient hills and wooded glades, with a ghostly recorder adding an extra layer of mystery to the mix.
Proving that the running order of this collection has been thoughtfully compiled, more sweet sadness can be found on “Lee's Dream”, a droning instrumental from Matthew De Gennaro that aches with loss creating a perfect heartfelt tribute that, fittingly, ends abruptly.
Slow-moving and haunting “The Aye-Aye” is the drifting descent of a leaf from canopy to forest floor, an exquisitely composed and performed piece of music from Electroscope that is crystal clear in its elegant beauty and timeless in its enchantment. Following on, the beautiful voice of Julia Vorontsova is at its finest on “Love”, a simple picked guitar refrain the only accompaniment needed.
With woozy slide guitar a-plenty, there is a lovely desert feel to “Rays in the Dust (For Lee)” an instrumental guitar piece from Matt McDowell that has a lightness of touch and great depth to it.
Beginning with an almost jazz swing, the tension is slowly cranked up as The Alchemysts do their thing on “Glass Cars”, the mellowness of the first three minutes completely obliterated by the walls of guitar noise in the middle section, anger and sadness intermingling to devastating effect until a brief return to quiet ends the track.
With echoed flute and strings “Night's Black Bird (after John Downland)” is an eerie and gentle piece from Xenis Emputae Travelling Band, proving to be the perfect introduction to “Lunar Suite (for Lee Jackson)”, a 22 minutes tour-de-force from Mike Tamburo that is split into three sections. Filled with his trademark drones and free falling notes the music is delicate and airy, whilst still containing enough substance to hold the attention, all three parts flowing together to creat a harmonious and shimmering whole.
With an improvised feel and a droning heart “The Seal Woman's Lament” speaks of loss and regret, low strings, whistles, percussion and voices building the tension as Tara Burke, Helena Espvall, Alec Redfearn and Sharron Kraus weave a sombre magic that wrings every drop of emotion from the very universe itself.
After such intensity The weird Weeds manage to earth us again without losing the sombre feel as “Untitled” proves to be a slow and stately track with a simple repeated refrain at its centre. Beginning with a high pitched whistle that made all the cats sit up, “Noble One(s)” is like no other track so far, the whistle underpinned by rumblings, drones and subterranean noises that get you looking over you shoulder just in case. Performed and composed by Nmperign and Jason Lescalleet the piece is almost torn apart by the very tensions it creates, a writhing mass of noise that reveals a dark beauty at its core. Equally experimental, but warmer in its textures and tones, the plucked notes and voices of “Go Up, Pup” sound wonderful in the hands of Ray Off, a short, but definitely lovely track.
Changing tack completely, the lo-fi garage three-chord awesomeness of AXEMAN is enlivened by a familiar chorus and the addition of sound bytes from Stephen Hawkins, definitely playing the merry prankster “No, Not Him (Jackson Mix)” lightens the moods and gets you grooving again.
Beginning with the sound of a alien craft landing in a wood “One For Lee” is a gently undulating piece from Valerio Cosi, that features saxophone and guitar as well as electronic textures, the whole thing peaceful and evocative. This mood is broken as Doleful Lions enter the fray, their “Combat Shock (it's Only a Matter of Time)” being a melancholy dream-pop tune that reminds me of Talk Talk in its construction.
Brief and perfectly distorted, “Be Next” is a primitive blast of noisy pop from Kable (a band I have only just discovered), that is a fine way to blow some dust from your ears and prepare you for the two long pieces that follow, I hope.
The first of these long pieces is brought to you by The Dire Wolves Absolutely Perfect Brothers Band, with “Creator Dub” being a live piece recorded in front of only a handful of people including Lee Jackson himself. Possessed of a brooding hypnotic power, the track is an ancient ritual, a ghost dance of the highest order, inducing levitation and mystical visions in the listener.
Recorded live at Terrastock 2008 and stretching out over 24 minutes “Slugger” from Kohoutek is a slow-burning slice of psychedelia that begins as an experimental creep through the undergrowth before emerging as a fully formed Kraut-Rock behemoth, guitars creating waves of noise that break over your head with happy abandon, the length of the track meaning you have no choice but to drown in the sound, only to emerge cleansed on the other side.
Of course, having been immersed and then cleansed, you find a second wave of righteous noise heading in your direction as Insect Factory flattens the landscape with the industrial strength drone of “Reversed in Your Head”, half-formed melodies and rhythms rising and then sinking again into the textured sea of sound that surrounds you.
Moving from the long form to the short, Raising Holy Sparks with The Sacred Harp Singers of Cork, take less than two minutes to completely enchant me with the wondrous folk of “Sacred Harp 282 (I'm Going Home)”, the soft spiritual mood of the song then quickly removed by the jet engine drone of “An Unwelcome Room” performed with passion and great volume by Remora.
Starting as the sweetest dreamscape ambience, “All the Sky in Flames” then slowly evolves as a rising plume of sound, an ever upward journey skilfully guided by Peter Wright, the track achieving a taut and carefully defined character by the end, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, a creeping paranoia, that is far removed from the carefree beginning, this tension then suddenly released as the track fades, the fires burnt out.
Fading in with some soaring guitar lines, “Christchurch in the Time of Tony Peake” remains as it begins, an exercise in guitar freedom, playful and vital, like a sudden and welcome breeze on a stifling day, hats of to Roy Montgomery for refreshing my brain. Treading a similar path, Evening Fires, shimmer and sparkle across “Nailing Smoke to the Wall”, a delightful instrumental with wah guitar, lysergic organ and an eye for the heavens, a small splash of sunlight on water.
Nice and nasty and with attitude a-plenty, Gate turn the volume up, with the sludgy and distorted “Whetu” packing an almighty punch as it slithers from the speakers with a malevolent gleam in the eye. At the other end of the scale, the delicious reveries of Windy and Carl make everything better, a rippling waterfall of notes that is oh so pretty that it can only make you smile, although the ambiguous title “The Little Voice That Echoes Inside My Head”, suggests a darker realm.
Distorted and Lo-Fi to the max, “Dream” is primitive rock and roll that wears its heart on its grimy sleeve with outsider pride. Working under the name Superbugger, the drums of James Kirk, offer a substantial foundation for Antony Milton to sonically destroy his surroundings, the vocals almost completely inaudible under the distortion and fury, turn this fucker up and rejoice.
Not surprisingly the cello takes centre stage during “Passage (For Lee), a spectral drone performed by Helena Espvall, the piece a slow ride across a misty lake, your vision limited to the immediate, unable to connect with the edges of the water, creating a timeless vision of the now.
Over seventeen minutes, guitarist Tom Greenwood, in cahoots with percussionist Danny Sasaki, manages to also evoke the now on “Willow Spring”, a tumbling, rambling version of reality that was recorded live in 2011. The surprising addition of vocals (well, to me anyway) after seven minutes adds an extra layer of warmth and gives the piece more structure resulting in a highly pleasing track that is inventive and as beautiful as a hazy sunset. Having watched the sun set, night is carried in on the back of The Roswell Incident, their “Ventricular” creating a brooding cloudy sky, its dark growling guitar leaving little room for the twinkle of starlight or the clink of glasses, time to step indoors and look inside the madness of your own soul.
Sounding like refugees from a seventies free festival, Exterminating Angels create a heady and stoned jam that crackles with electricity as “Opening” suggests it is 3:00 AM somewhere in the world, this mood continued as ST 37 follow on, with “German Verman” being a deep space piece that is draped in golden light, the band mining a rich seam of experimentation in their quest for enlightenment.
Like the soft rolling of waves on a sandy shoreline, Pete Fosco creates a calming and romantic soundscape on “Zilpo Forest Blues”, a simple and repeated guitar motif is underscored with more experimental sounds although these never overpower the central theme, merely augment and punctuate the movement of the music, allowing the listener to melt into the gentle rhythms. Utilising the same basic pattern, Norman Neubauer adds a few extra ingredients to the recipe, the guitar allowed to roam more freely as “I'm Done Sharing Thing I guess” glides effortlessly over eight lovingly crafted minutes, the track improvised after hearing the tragic news.
Named after something Lee Jackson once said to him, Greg Dixon (working under the name Quixod) has created a mini soundtrack to a specific moment in time with “The Sounds of Trains at Night”, a lovingly composed piece with a throbbing bass line, guitars, samples, theremin and the sound of a passing train complete with the voice of Lee, something that will bring back memories for so many people and giving the track an extra poignancy.
In the notes to this collection Lee Jackson describes the music of The Lost Domain as “Offering a wind swept journey through the deep dark blue void”, and that sums up “Restless Blues” perfectly, 16 minutes of solitude and sadness that threatens to overwhelm you.
Like a walk through an electronic jungle “Gateway” is an airy and delicate swirl of noises, the piece sounding like the dripping of water around a sunlit waterfall, beautifully constructed by Charlatan, not suprising as the prolific Brad Rose is involved. More electronic shenanigans are created by Emperor Ringworm, whose short offering “Lee”, sounds like Kraut-Rock composed for a video game, Atari textures twisted into something highly engaging and creative.
Featuring words from Alfred Jarry, from his book “Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll, Pataphysician”, Brendan Quinn and Mark Bennett have created a writhing and emotionally charged drone on “Concerning the Isle of Ptxy”, words and sounds fusing beautifully together demanding the listeners attention. Adding percussion to the drone, When the World Was ((Sound)), take us to heaven, a remarkably spacey drone driven by tribal drums and impeccable timing, creating hazy psychedelia that shimmers in the heat of knowing.
With the same underworld atmosphere as “Zeit” (Tangerine Dream), Seht allows you to walk with ghosts in sacred caves lost for centuries, the sounds of “For the Dead Ones in Space (Lee Jackson's Half-Life of Chromium Dioxide Edit)” so drawn towards meditation and contemplation that they are almost unbearable until you find the stillness that lies at the centre of the piece.
After such intensity, Zeleniople offer up the sweet lament of “Laundry”, which is a welcome relief, a slow and trembling song that is utterly tranquil, the mood matched by Charalambides whose “Joy Shapes For Lee” drifts across fields of emotion driven by a beguiling vocal performance that whispers with sparse tears.
Serving up a joyous dance of electronic sound that burbles and crackles with life, Raglani make me smile as the sequenced charms of “Outer Rim territories” grace my room, a life confirming merry-go-round of delight.
Delightful and poignant, “Blue Tomorrows”, is a slice of dreamy shoegaze mellowness from Feature Films, that seems far too short to these ears.
Always wonderful, the songs and voice Of Jeff Kelly are a joy to behold, as can be heard on “In The Sky”, an acoustic tune that weaves magic amongst it's tumbling notes, the acoustic mood fractured as Thunderbolt Pagoda rock it up with a killer riff giving “The Reclamation” an urgency and power.
Featuring four good friends of Lee's, including Travis Johnson, “Secret Kraft” is a small part of a weekend spent jamming and reminiscing about Lee and their friendship. Calling themselves Lunar Discotheque, the music is a rattlingly good mix of analogue and digital, synths and sequencers dancing together in celebration, the sounds reaching for the stars and getting there.
Seemingly played by spectres, “Muistain is filled with echoes voices and spectral sounds, the buzz of insects amongst the flowers, as Kemialliset Ystavat delve into the arcane with spooky precision and sonic finery.
Merely drifting, but drifting with elegance, Jouurney press all the right buttons on “Commit Your Way”, a breathtaking cloud of sound that is sweet and calming. Not wishing to break the mood “Anemones in a Blue vase” is a haunting song that moves as slowly as a glacier, the delicate nature of the music matched by the half hidden voice and sensitive production.
Like being locked in the dark on a half sunken ghostship, the music of Zanzibar Snails creaks and rattles, causing you to glance over your shoulder from time to time. Using a well controlled set of sounds, “”A More Celestial Perception of the Absolute” crawls under the skin right from the off, unsettling and tense in its design.
After the recent sonic assault, the clean and simple sounds of acoustic guitar and vocals is something of a relief, the sweet softness and nostalgia of “Levee” bringing back the scent of half forgotten perfumes and old conversations as Wooden Wand practices magic on your ears.
If you will forgive, I am going to quote Lee again as his description of The Renderers is so damn perfect that my words pale in comparison, so, “the music of the Renderers exists in that wonderful
state between fully structured pop song and shambling audio seepage. These songs
don’t always bludgeon as much as they writhe and slither their way from the
speakers into your brain.”. Just one listen to “Out of the Forest” (live), will convince of the truth of those words, thanks Lee.
Imagine yourself walking through sunlit glade, buterflies dance on the edge of your vision, bird calls echo from the treetops and the rustling of leaves and scurrying of small animals can be heard. All you need now is the perfect soundtrack, which can be found in the shape of “New languages (for Lee Jackson)”, an electronic floatation tank of great beauty created by Derek Rodgers. As you leave the woodland you suddenly find yourself on a cliff top, the sea stretching out in front of you melting into a pure blue sky, making your body smile with joy, the soundtrack now playing the noisy dream-pop of Winslow, whose “Purcell” contains some excellent guitar interplay that allows you to float away, shimmering between the notes.
Like the Buddhist master whacking you with a stick when you doze of during meditation, the jarring yet rhythmic sound manipulation of “You Eat In Greed” is a swift reminder of reality, the loops and samples grinding together like cogs in a wheel as Mass Ornament manufacture a delicious and tasty five minutes of goodness.
Recorded by Lee Jackson on a video recorder, The Watchers - “Live at the Phoenix Project” is a nine minute electronic swarm of noise texture samples and playful inventiveness. Almost totally abstract in construction, the piece is alive, a multi-headed beast that stalks the room with a commanding presence, those coal black eyes demanding that you listen. By the end of the track, the beast has disintegrated into a swarm of ebony flies that cover the window in a desperate bid for freedom.
As if being played in another room, The music of Hush Arbours has reverb and an air of mystery, the sweet home spun guitar perfectly matching the lonesome quality of the voice, a world weary yet hopeful plea that turns “Berryman in the Field” into a half-remembered dream, a soliloquy that is deeply moving.
As beautiful as the sunrise, “The Infinite tides” is a hazy ride through the sky that is wholly satisfying, the blend of acoustic/electric guitars, percussion and contrabass sounding sublime in the hands of Akiyama/Cocoran/Kiefer/Leftridge musicians on the top of their game.
Heavy on percussion and rhythm, Sun Circle get you feet tapping and your mind smiling on the joyous “Awaken”, the addition of occasional electronics adding some humming tension to the piece in all the right places. Taking that hum and running with it, Spiral Joy band create an elongated timeless drone on “13 Moons of Doom Part 3 – Red Lunar Serpent”, the almost gossamer beginning slowly consumed by a slow pulsing bass, creating disintegration of the highest order, play loud and stay still to listen.
Capturing the spirit of seventies acid-folk, that air of mystery and detachment from everyday drudgery, “Tracing the Corner” is a sparse and haunting song, a fragile voice and otherworldly guitar caressing each other in sonic bliss, oblivious to anything around them, a thing of profound wonder created by Dora Bleu.
Long and rambling, “Hammer > Jam” is Americana for the lost and disillusioned, a heady mix of guitars the writhe around each other twisting melodies and re-inventing notes, the perfect foil for the voice and lyrics that echo from the undergrowth around. As MV &EE with the Golden Road head into the Jam section, the musicians open out the space between them, leading to some gorgeous interplay that bring to mind the Dead at their mellow cosmic best.
With words by Lee Jackson (the full story can be found in the notes), Tanakh, creates a tightly controlled musical soundscape, the nagging guitar riff holding the words together, the whole having the texture of a dream, half forgotten in the morning-light.
Sounding, initially, as if a long train is passing, “On the Divide” retains a metallic quality throughout, bells clanking and ringing as Pelt use sound as meditation, the train slowly passing as the piece fades leaving a sense of loss and regret.
Offering hope and light, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma paints tone poems of fragility and wide open spaces, washes of guitar layered over each other creating a shimmer of sound that favours texture over melody, the listener left to find his own pathway through “The Placeless Place” , a dancing garden of sound.
Waving the flag for Lo-Fi psych Plastic Crimewave swap their usual garage fuzz snarl for the forest atmosphere of “Butterfly and Moth”, a track full of spectres, ghosts and memories that crawls inside your brain with its rambling charm.
Starting with a single tone, Vanessa Rossetto creates a pure and highly charged drone on “Untitled – For Lee Jackson”, the slowly rising piece filling the room with sound as it cranks up the tension to almost overwhelming proportions, time seemingly non existent, only now remains.
Both experimental and filled with lush melodies, “Peacefully” features the steel resonator guitar of R Keenan Lawler, the wide range of sounds and textures displaying a man and instrument working together as a single entity. Over 13 minutes, the piece dances, cries, fades and returns, a work of great presence and fragile longing.
Originally released on Camera Obscura, and dedicated to both Lee and Tony Dale, “Armonia Aphanes Phaneros Kreisson” is a 27 minute workout from The Azusa Plane, that destroys all around it, a blistering dronescape that captures the universe within its glowing hands, holding your attention and leaving you breathless with wonder and exhausted from the eternal grin you are wearing. The perfect way to end a stunning collection of music.
What can I say, an extraordinary collection of sounds that should be owned by everybody with an interest in underground/psych experimental/folk music. It seems so sad that it took the death of someone much loved to bring it together, for this is a celebration of life and creativity. Maybe next year another collection can be compiled to celebrate the fact we are all still here, maybe. (Simon Lewis)